Saturday 23 August 2014

So good to be on the move again!

Like many other boaters we took the opportunity of a bank holiday to escape the marina and go on a four day cruise as I had booked Tuesday off.

Despite the iffy weather it felt so good to be on the move again.  Nice as the marina is we much prefer to have water flowing under the base plates and let AmyJo have a good swim.

We're not going far this time, just into Chester as with Chris's birthday coming up I've booked VIP tickets for this year's theatre in the park to see Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors" as a birthday treat on Sunday.  Chris really wanted to go again and so I manage to get the last tickets of the last performance, now sold out.

We got under way in blustery conditions about 10:30am when the rain had stopped.  I reversed AmyJo out of the mooring with trepidation thinking the wind may play havoc with manoeuvring.  I need not have worried as without realising it I had reversed into the shelter of the club house and turned AmyJo into much calmer wind as a result.  I found providing I kept a reasonable speed in reverse AmyJo kept a good line and then turned easily when changing the throttle to ahead.  I was grateful all went well as being new kids on the block all eyes were watching us leave wit interest.  Funny how there seems to be no one around and as soon as you pull of the mooring the marina comes alive with people all of a sudden :-).

Leaving the mooring and Ominous Grey clouds we would be cruising into

We made the transition through the moorings at Golden Nook and the rain started.  It became heavy enough for Chris to go below and do some boat work (is that the correct phrase for housework on a boat?)

And this is only the start of it
Once passed the line of moorings we soon got back to normal cruising speed but the sky got darker and darker until a torrential down pour followed.  It lasted for some 20 minutes after which the sun came out and it remained dry for the rest of the day.

For a holiday weekend surprisingly few boats passed us and at the Old Trooper and Cheshire Cat  moorings only a handful of boats were present.

Hardly anyone about at Chistleton
We had a boat follow us from Tattenhall and they became grateful lock buddies with us going down Greenfield and Tarvin Locks.  I did not get the ladies name but hubby Mike and I chatted as you do in locks and he was a really pleasant chap.  

Mike and I put the world to rights in Greenfield Lock
We stopped after Tarvin lock not far from the Bridge Inn as we needed a shop and I wanted to be near Aldi tomorrow as their special buys tomorrow includes this handy inspection camera

This will be great for checking around the engine and bilges where one cannot see or get too normally.

Talking about the engine, I'm please to report the leak we found on Wednesday has now stopped and we seem to be winning on the coolant leak front at last.  Still early days to see if we are still loosing any but the signs look good at the moment.

After a lovely sunny afternoon we are now settled down for the night.  The bridge Inn has a live band on at the moment and they sound pretty good.  Might just have to pop in for the odd drink and see what they are like.....

Thursday 21 August 2014

Another Pair of Eyes Do Help Sometimes.

Wednesday nights in the summer are the only free nights in a week we have and whilst Chris was away in Essex I decided it was a good time to give AmyJo's engine a really good looking over for that coolant leak that has plagued us since launching.

I had just finished dinner and was taking up the engine covers when my good friend Dave (another sailing buddy) paid me a visit.  Dave and I have sailed many miles together in his GP14 and we are known as the heavy weather guys as the stronger the wind the better we like it.

We discussed several possible scenarios where the leak may be coming from and prepared to start removing the bulkhead frame surrounding the engine when a chance movement enabled Dave to  spot the most likely cause.  The hose by the end of the cylinder head casing ( see red arrow in photo) is connected to the block by a 90 degree elbow connector. I believe it goes to the calorifier.

As Dave was feeling around the area the hose moved as the elbow connector swivelled when his hand brushed past it.  We discovered that the joint nuts were slightly loose on the connector and where the hose connects to it the hose was wet underneath.  Running the engine revealed water weeping out very slowly that stopped when the engine was turned off.  The escaping coolant dropped down a small gap between the engine block and the fuel filter into the engine bed and that was why we could not trace the leak originally.

We are planning a 4 day cruise over the weekend so now everything has been tightened up we'll see if we have finally cured the coolant loss.

Monday 18 August 2014

Settling In and Party Time

Hi all,
Not had much to blog about until now as we have been settling into our new life at Tattenhall marina.

First week back we stayed at home in the bungalow to catch up on some much needed jobs.  The bathroom tap had started to let by and on a meter every drop costs money so had to be sorted asap.  The weeds have started to take over big style and in just three weeks we have a carpet of them through the gravel.  Of course there was the washing to be done though luckily Chris manage to get most done on AmyJo so it did not take much time.

We only lasted just one week at the house, until the pull of AmyJo got too much. The plain fact is, we simply hated being ashore, we did not feel settled, and all the old stresses of life began to return!   People told us once you live aboard you'll never want to go land side again.  I think we're beginning to see why.  Monday last we returned to AmyJo and have been aboard ever since so now life is good once more.  I am now commuting to work and coming home to AmyJo each day.  The extra distance means another 20mins on my journey time but I don't mind as most is through country lanes and most alongside the cut.  I actually love driving to and from work now as a result but thoughts of perhaps retiring sooner rather than later are beginning to stir since our big trip. Once home on AmyJo its like being in another world, far from our old life.  A world we are growing to like very much.

I did, by the way, manage to fit the new fender  that we bought from Ron. I think it still needs some adjustment but its doing the job of keeping the bow off the pontoon really well.

Chris still is off work until next month and her journey to work is now much shorter so she is happy and still loves being aboard even more so now.  She has pottered about re-oiling the galley's Beech worktops, and she has even found time to make some nice scatter cushions from remnants of the cheetee and day room sofa material that was left over fro the build.

We are beginning to get to know people around us in the marina and this was helped greatly on Saturday night when the annual hog roast was staged with 250 tickets sold out.  We managed to get our tickets and at £10 each we had a whale of a time.  Based in a huge marquee we found for our tenner, we each got great food, free booze all evening, and free entertainment (value for money or what!) 

The entertainment was provided first by a 16 piece Samba band called "Karamba" who played drums so loud they were actually offering earplugs for those that wanted them, the beat that loud it thumped in your chest.  The conductor was a real character himself and was as entertaining as the band with his unique way of conducting.

The Kamaba band in full swing

Their conductor had a very odd way to conduct

Following these was one of the best young bands we have heard in a long time, "Mojo Circus" they are called and played songs from the 60's right up to modern tracks.  They catered for all age groups.  Their vocals were fantastic and in a short time had every one up dancing.

Mojo Circus had everyone on their feet dancing the night away
We had a fantastic evening have made some new friends along the way. 

Best of all the club house next morning were doing full English hangover breakfasts too, now that I might just get used to but please don't let Chris know or I'll be on lettuce leaves for the rest of the week .

Saturday 2 August 2014

Big Trip Home Day 21 - Last day and Home Coming

After our session in the Shady Oak last night Chris and I were eventually roused at 9:30am to the sound of heavy rain on the cabin roof.  Having not far to go today and the destination meaning the end of our trip we were in no hurry to surface, so turned over and woke again at 10:30am.

We decided to stay put to see if the rain would ease but by 2:30pm it was still raining so on went the wet gear and we upped pins for our final run of the trip to Tattenhall Marina, AmyJo's new home.

Not sure if it is me but AmyJo seemed sluggish today.  She seemed to swim slower than usual.  It was clear that she too did not want the trip to end as we found nothing wrong with her, nor anything on the prop.  The weather too was as miserable as we felt now the trip was coming to an end.

We turned into the marina and pulled onto the fuelling arm to top up and pump out.  After sorting all the paperwork out we put AmyJo onto her mooring that we had reserved for her back in April 2011 and our journey finally came to an end.

So that's it, we're home and done.

AmyJo's new home for now

This deluge hit us shortly after taking this photo.
Reflected our mood too.
We decided to stay on board one more night and then go home for a few days as we have commitments to keep.  We sat all afternoon with a feeling of anti climax but with anticipation for the cruises to come.  

We have thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and really do not want to go home. We have had a fantastic time love living on AmyJo even more now and the thought of going ashore is not enjoyable one at the minute.  We vowed to return at the first possible moment.  I have a feeling we're going to be spending a whole lot more time on AmyJo in future.

Our short route today
We can now say AmyJo had exceeded all our expectations and has performed faultlessly on this cruise since the alternator belt was tensioned.  She is a delight to handle and has faired well despite our coolant loss scare last month.  We are utterly in love with her now.  We are still loosing a little coolant but Beta have sent a new water tank neck and cap so we'll see if that cures it.

So what's next for us?  No idea right now, but lets just say if my boss does just one thing to pee me off when I get back to work next week ....

Big Trip Home Day 20 - Evening visitors and back to Shady Oak

Wow how time flies when you are having fun!  Poor excuse for no posts but we simply have not had any spare time to sit at the keyboard until now.  Yes I know lame excuse but I'm staying with it :-)

So where were we, ah yes, Tower wharf and a knock on the cabin....  a surprise visit from our good friend Kathy from the sailing club on her way home spotted AmyJo and called in to see us.  Sorry no photos as the camera was on charge with a dead battery at the time.  Kathy stayed for a good catch up and the royal tour and then said her goodbyes.

An hour later we got a call from two more sailing friends Steve and Liz who were planning to have a meal in Telfords and would we like to join them?  Of course we would, so the rest of the evening was spent wining and dining in great company.  Aftewr that we all retired to AmyJo for coffee.

This morning was an early start and we were under way just after 7am.  Today we were on a mission to get to the Shady Oak to pick up a bow fender from Ron on Rainbow's End who offered to supply one at a very good rate.  Ron is in the guild of knots men and makes very good looking fenders to order. We had seen his work and were impressed.

We climbed the Northgate locks on our own as no one in the basin were leaving until later today.  There was a fair amount of cloud about and at last temperatures were in the pleasant zone again.

Entering the bottom lock

Precariously perched but what a view from the terrace

Morning walkers see through the bridge of Sighs

The Mill hotel has two buildings spanning the canal via this walkway.
Their bar has an excellent stock of real ales and is open to all.

We met up with an Australian family as we worked the locks out of Chester who had the boat for four days then were returning to Oz via Africa.  Mrs Mum had the same GoPro camera as I, so in each lock I showed her how to use the time lapse function.  Ours, with an extender battery, has produced some great video that covers virtually the whole of our trip in stages.  I may post some of the more interesting ones when I get time.

After stopping at the old Trooper water point to top up we next made the slow march pass all the moored boats at Golden Nook and  this time one boat took our eye we missed the other day.  A 60ft black hull with unusual trimmings....

Grisly bow mascot 

The other half is hanging from the bows.   Think they put a new
slant on skinny dipping.
On arriving at Shady Oak we met with Ron and got our fender that I'll post a photo of when fitted.   We were invited to join them and their family for a drink or four so once again another late night followed.  Ron is off to the Black Country of a few weeks so we made a promise to catch up with them on their return

Our route today

Friday 1 August 2014

Big Cruise Home Day 19 - Visitors and a headless gatekeeper

Last night eldest daughter Amy paid us a visit for a catch up.  After only an hour Amy had chilled, relaxed and mum and daughter had some quality time.

Doing one's nails
Our last visit to Chester by canal in a hire boat was back in 2002 and I so wanted to visit the basin but time did not allow and we winded at Cow Lane bridge just outside Iceland.  With AmyJo we still had a few days in hand so the decision was made, Northgate locks here we come.

We slipped lines at 10am and slid past The Lock Keeper (formerly the Frog and Nightingale).  This pub has had a change of management and is now a pleasant place for a pint despite a few drunks hankering around, the landlord does not abide them.
The renamed Lock Keeper now a much more friendly pub.
As residents of Chester we know the city has a reputation and many now avoid it.  The city does have a Jeckell and Hyde persona.  Visit at weekends and its nightclub central and lager louts and party goers abound.  Visit in the week and Chester's face is one for the tourists, subdued and a delight for those that do venture in.  Our advise is if you plan a visit, avoid the weekends and do the walls as this is the best way to see the town.

The approach to Northgate locks is via another of Telford's nightmares for his navvies.  A Sandstone cutting deep into the stone paves your path to the locks.  Overhead the city walls King Charles tower watches your passing.  Also known as the Phoenix Tower it was, in earlier times, generally known as the Newton Tower, that being the name of the suburb overlooked from the wall at this point, and, more notably, later as the King Charles Tower to commemorate the events of September 1645, during the English Civil War, when King Charles I, together with the mayor, Sir Francis Gamul, stood on the roof and witnessed the rout of his army by Parliamentary forces after the Battle of Rowton Moor (or Rowton Heath). The inscription upon the tower states:


Actually, it would have been impossible to see the field of battle from here - what they probably witnessed was later action on Hoole Heath and fugitives from the fray being pursued and harried through the eastern suburbs.

King Charles Tower
 Next is the famous bridge of sighs.  Here condemned to death prisoners walked the bridge from the goal to their deaths, reputedly sighing as they crossed.  

All that is left of the bridge of sighs.  Portals either end are now walled up.

Passing under the elevated city ring road one enters Northgate top lock.  Here AmyJo waited whilst we lowered the next two chambers for our descent.  Our old friend the pigeon was still there when Adrian and Adam visited last year in Briar Rose (click) and followed us down.

AmyJo waits in the top lock
One cannot help feeling you are descending into the bowels of the earth.

Be reassurance is at hand when the bottom gates open
 Whilst in the middle lock we did a passing shuffle with another boat coming up.  Whilst they ascended in the top lock we descended in the middle lock.  I looked up behind and was faced with a head peering down at me like a headless gatekeeper.

Not a ghost, just the helm of the ascending boat peering over the gate.
 Once down the staircase we passed under the railway into the Tower basin.  We did think of stopping but Chris really wanted to cruise out to Backford and back first.  This stretch was not at all what I expected.  As many boats do not travel beyond the basin I expected to cut to be over grown and shallow.  Seems C&RT have put a lot of effort into the area recently and the canal is clean and tow path in excellent condition.  A new Countess of Chester park area has been created and new sign posts mark the walking routes.  Graffiti on bridges has been painted out ready for a fresh set.  Seems this a new weapon against graffiti.  Paint it out,  let them do fresh work then paint it out again.  Seems to be working too.

The Famous Telford Wharf now a popular trendy bar and restaurant

Taylor's yard now enjoying increasing business in boat repairs etc.

Tower wharf dry dock but too small for AmyJo unfortunately

Modern Deva Aqueduct built in 1992  gives passage for traffic to the now
large retail park here.

Part of the new country park and trail
 One notable feature is bridge 132A known by local boaters as Five Arch Bridge.  Made of Sandstone, presumabley from the canal cuttings, it once carried Ocean liner expresses from Birkenhead to London Paddington but nowadays hosts the electric trains of the Mersery rail's third rail.  We thought we could count Severn arches but five are visible easily.

Bridge 132a and two of the arches on the right.
 At the next bridge 133 we winded AmyJo and returned to Tower Wharf basin for the night.

The local Cheshire regiment garrison have training grounds here.
Some wag has had fun with the wording.

One of many new signs marking the way in the Countess of Chester park

An ultra new looking Chrematorium.

AmyJo's mooring tonight.
We found the last mooring big enough for AmyJo and settled down with a cuppa when there was a knock on the cabin.  Who was paying us a visit?  More in tomorrow's post.

Our route today